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10 Debate Questions That Will Stir Things Up

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Slade Sohmer


By Slade Sohmer on January 24, 2012


Eighteen debates. Well, 18 chances to deliver mini-stump speeches instead of actually debating.

This coming Thursday will mark the 19th debate among people who mostly agree, hilarious considering we only get three debates in the general election for candidates who don’t. Go figure.

It’s all the same at this point. Newt Gingrich will say “Reagan” and “Warshington” so often you’d be dead if you played the Debate Bingo Drinking Game. Mitt Romney will lack all confidence in his carefully scripted non-answers. Rick Santorum will warn us of invisible threats and how he’ll stop them like Mark Wahlberg on 9/11. And Ron Paul will be ignored like a black twink at a Lemon Party.

No matter, they keep happening anyway. Monday night’s debate was, by most accounts, a lifeless affair. Perhaps the missing ingredient was that raucous South Carolina hootin’ & hollerin’ audience that seemed plucked straight from a taping of Maury. At this point, the questions have mostly been answered. There are few surprises. National Journal’s Beth Reinhard asked a few really solid questions on Monday, but otherwise Brian Williams’ moderating missed the mark. So in order to stir things up from our predictable debate slumber, here are 10 questions that will likely get the juices flowing again…

1. This president nearly tripled the national debt, signed an immigration reform bill that granted blanket amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants, talked with our enemies, raised taxes 11 times (and raised payroll taxes in order to pay for government-run health care), presided over double-digit unemployment, expanded the size of government and created new federal departments, cut and ran from hostile regions, put two justices on the Supreme Court that voted to uphold Roe v. Wade, closed tax loopholes to ensure “every corporation pay their fair share,” and even advocated gun control on the op-ed pages of the, gasp, New York Times. My question is: Which one of you on stage is ready to break the 11th Commandment and speak ill of a fellow Republican, in this case, Ronald Reagan?

2. Every one of you on stage has advanced diametrically opposed viewpoints of Barack Obama at some point. You have all argued that President Obama is an incompetent boob who’s in over his head but that the same President Obama is a Marxist radical who is succeeding masterfully in fundamentally transforming the United States of America. So which is it? Is he incompetent or masterful?

3. A hypothetical: Due to some sort of religious miracle that we can’t explain, you can end poverty in the United States as we know it by dropping out of the presidential race. If you call it quits, there will suddenly be a massive jobs boom and unemployment will fall below 4 percent. You will also get credit for this in the written history of the nation. But should you choose to stay in the race for your own aspirational gain, nobody will ever know you were given this choice. What do you do?

4. When’s the last time you personally bought a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread and a carton of eggs, and please tell the audience right now how much each one of those items cost? The Price Is Right rules apply, the closest without going over takes the prize.

5. Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado on Monday announced that he is boycotting President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night. He just doesn’t feel like listening to a “campaign” speech disguised as a State of the Union, he says. Do you agree with his decision, why or why not?

6. Governor Romney, you’ve taken more positions than the Kama Sutra, which I’m sure you’ve never read. But one thing you’ve been pretty consistent about, as we saw in the release of your tax returns, is support for the Mormon church. You’ve donated more than $4 million to the Salt Lake City-based faith and paid about $6 million to the government in taxes over the past two years. How do you justify hating on a government that tries to provide a social safety net when you willingly pay more than your fair share to a religious organization that spends your money demonizing good people they perceive to be sinners?

7. Speaker Gingrich, which member of the media do you blame for the JFK assassination? Which media outlet do you blame for causing Hurricane Katrina? And which future debate moderator do you blame for the Houston Oilers’ blowing that 32-point lead to Frank Reich’s Buffalo Bills in 1993?

8. Congressman Paul, your son Rand claims he was detained by the TSA on Monday for refusing an invasive pat-down. The irony, though, is that he was on his way to speak at a “March for Life” rally. Do you find any irony in the fact that he claims his privacy was invaded at the airport as he was on his way to, as some bloggers put it, callously infringe on many women’s right to privacy?

9. Senator Santorum, you argue that abortion should ALWAYS be illegal, even in cases of rape and incest. When asked about your extreme position, you admitted that it’s “horrible” but said rape victims “have to make the best out of a bad situation.” Like Christopher Hitchens volunteering to waterboarded for the purposes of forming a coherent, rational position, would you be willing to submit to a brutal rape so you can see how it feels to be violated and told to make the best of it?

10. Another hypothetical: Let’s say you are guaranteed to win the general election if you pick a Democrat as your running mate, but you have only a 20 percent chance if you stay within your own party. Would you cross the aisle, and which Democrat would be on your short list?

Slade Sohmer is co-founder and editor-in-chief of HyperVocal. Follow him @hypervocal.

(photo via Chip Litherland/The New York Times)

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